Sunday, March 30, 2014

St. Paul & The Broken Bones @ Johnny Brenda's - Philadelphia, PA 03/28/14

I have already professed my love for St. Paul and the Broken Bones in a previous post.  This was before the February release of their first disc, Half The City.  After missing them the last time around I promised myself that I would not miss them again.  I finally got the chance.  They were coming back to Philadelphia to play Johnny Brenda's.  One of my favorite Philly Venues.  The concert quickly sold out.  Rightly so.  Great band, great venue, and $10.00 ticket prices.  Really.  $10.00.  It was a close one but I managed to get a ticket.  I love it when a plan comes together.

Johnny Brenda's is in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia.  20 years ago that area was not so good.  These days it is very trendy.  You can park a few blocks away and still feel safe walking back to your car.  I arrived early for the show so that I could grab a bite to eat before hand and a few beers.  The food is always great and reasonable and they have a large, local, draft beer selection.  I got the Cubano and a Farmhouse Kriek and was good to go.

The night was starting off with DJ DNA spinning some retro sounds. The opening act would be Philadelphia's own Heat Run and then St. Paul and the Broken Bones.  I finished up eating and headed upstairs.  As always, I bought my shirt immediately.  I bought a cd as well in hopes that I would get to meet the band afterwards.  While I was paying I noticed a tour poster on the wall.  I decided to help myself to that too. Lol.

I grabbed another beer (Redolent Rye Special Ale) and grabbed a seat by the stairs.  The stair post is adorned with a lit boxing glove that belonged to the original owner.  The beautiful thing about the upstairs music venue is it has a capacity of only 250 people and includes a bar and a balcony that wraps around the stage.  It is intimate at its best. 

Sometimes I will check out an opening band before a show.  Sometimes I will let their sound be a surprise.  This time I didn't even do the research to see who the opening band was.  It was a complete surprise.  The opening band tonight would be The Heat Run.

The Heat Run is a six piece band from Philly.  The band describes itself as "an indie-groove-folk collective based in Philadelphia. It's a family affair characterized by soulful, foot-stomping, hand clapping, group sing-a-longs."  To my surprise they were good.  REALLY good.  I would have enjoyed an entire gig of this band.  Here is the thing about not checking a band out before a show.  I dialed them up on Spotify and put on their EP on the way home and it was a disappointment  There were a couple songs on there that they played live and the recorded versions did not compare.  Not even close.  This band ROCKED live.  I am so glad that I had saw them live first.  After the EP I listened to their full length debut.  This was much better.  It captured the essence of their live sound and energy. 

They also tried out a few new songs on us and I was quite happy with them.  I would definitely like to see this band again. 

It was almost time for St. Paul and the Broken Bones.  The last time they hit Philly they were touring the strength of their initial EP with songs from the upcoming release up Half The City.  Since then 'Call Me' broke and people were paying attention.  The new album was released and it did not disappoint.  It was as if Sam Cooke was alive and channeling Wilson Pickett.  It is one of my favorites of 2014 so far.

The band took the stage, minus Paul Janeway, to warm up the crowd with a cover of Booker T's 'Chicken Pox'. 

It was rocking and a great way to kick off the show.  The band was tight!  Janeway finally entered the stage.  You see the look and you know what to expect but when his mouth opens to start singing 'Don't Mean A Thing' it is still a shock to hear what comes out.  It was soulful.  It was Raw.  It was incredible. 

He was hitting hard.  Really hard.  So hard I wasn't sure that he could make it through a hole set.  He was on his knees and sweating one song into the set.  He was giving us everything.  Down on the floor giving us his heart and soul.  The horn section were taking the lead in this show.  A couple songs in they brought it with a cover of the Sam Cooke song 'SHAKE!".

 In between songs Paul asked the audience how many of us were at their last show in Philly.  One person raised his hand.  Janeway chuckled and said, "Don't lie!  No one was at our last show".  That says something about the strength of their new release. By this time some of the crowd was getting drunk and the yells for 'Call Me' were filling the air.  In my opinion he highlight was the upcoming 'Broken Bones and Pocket Change'.

They rolled through their soulful set with precision.  During their slower songs Janeway urged the single audience members to grab someone or grab themselves because this was their chance.  They showed us showed us their roots in the church.  Hell, they showed us their soul.  Al was killing the organ on songs like  'Let It Be Soul' and the soulful guitar riffs coming from Browan were soaking in sweat.

They were nearing the close of their set and let us know that they had only three songs left.  They served up 'Call Me' and the crowd went wild. 

They finished off their set with 'Make it Rain'.  Before Janeway left the stage he said they were done unless we wanted more.  The crowd went into their chant and out the came.
They started of the encore with the Paul McCartney 'Let Me Roll It' followed up by 'Try A Little Tenderness'.  If you closed your eyes you could almost hear Otis Redding.  Janeway did his best James Brown by leaving and coming back.  They rocked it and then they were done.  The show was phenomenal.  I almost felt drained myself.  It been a while since a show literally moved my soul.  St. Paul and the Broken Bones Managed to do that. 

The whole time they were laughing and having fun.  I almost felt jealous that I wasn't up there.  Even drummer Andrew Lee delivered his beats with a smile.  This seemed to be a band that legitimately enjoyed their music and each other.  In turn, we enjoyed it too.

After the show I stood by the side of the stage, which was by the backstage door, hoping to get some autographs.  The drummer and keyboardist came out to socialize and signed my CD and poster.  They even gave me the set list from the show.  I waited for others to come out but as I grew impatient I noticed that no one was watching the backstage door.  Sooooo, I took it upon myself to go back stage.

I ran into Browen signing for another fan.  My Sharpie ran dry and he actually sent someone to find me another.  While we were waiting Brown shared that even though Half The City was just released they had finished it a year ago.  He had said that they have an entire discs worth of new music that they haven't even played live yet.  They have been filling their set with covers to go along with the Greetings EP and Half the City to promote the new disc.  He said that the new music was a little different and very exciting.  I was VERY excited!!!

The Sharpie came and Jesse signed next.  Jessie and Browen were telling us how they started off playing together in Jesse's psychedelic rock band.  That, in essence, is how the broken bones started.  After that they started tracking down other band members so that we could get their autographs.  How incredible was THAT?  They were simply enjoying the attention and they were kind and genuine.  Not jaded like I have become accustomed to experienced. It was refreshing!

Ben and Allen, the horn section, were next.  Ben was watching the Kentucky vs. Louisville College Basketball game on his phone.  He was willing to stop and sign even though it was a 2 point game with 14 seconds left.  We told him to go enjoy it.  He promised he would come back and smiled to say he was rooting for Kentucky.  Apparently Paul was in the dressing room doing the same thing. 

The game finished and Paul came out next.  He graciously signed my CD and Poster and hopped in a photo with me.

I had all of their signatures and I was thrilled.  These guys were great.  After they signed my gear they were heading back out to the bar and merchandise table to socialize.  This was such a wonderful night.

I walked back to my car with a smile.  I thought about how incredible this evening had been.  A good meal, a mind blowing show, and a great experience.  It had everything.  I didn't think anything could spoil this night.  That was until I got back to the car and saw the $26.00 parking ticket.

Apparently this area has changed to mostly 2 hour parking since I was here in the fall.  Even this could not ruin my night.  I've spent at least that much to park at other music venues.  I was willing to pay that for a night like this.  Even more. 

See you at the next show!


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